INDIANAPOLIS -- They finished the regular season with a losing record, they finish games as if they’re wearing blindfolds and they nearly finished their season with an embarrassing collapse on Saturday.
Still, the Indiana Pacers press onward, with the outward confidence of the better team.
“I’m still upset it’s 1-3,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said following his team’s 89-84 victory over Chicago at Conseco Fieldhouse.
The Pacers held leads in the fourth quarter of all three of their losses to the Bulls before collapsing under the weight of playoff pressure and Derrick Rose. They nearly self-destructed again on Saturday, leading by as many as 17 points in the final period, and by 16 with 5:05 left, before missing five of their final six shots and committing five turnovers. So uncertain was their offensive demeanor that they committed two shot clock violations.
The Bulls got within a single point with 15.3 seconds left, but Danny Granger hit four foul shots to prevent the Pacers from closing out the season with homecourt humiliation.
The Pacers continue to find silver linings to their sputtering finishes. They’ve consistently competed well against the Eastern Conference’s top seed, and now they have a win to show for it. They’ll take that as a reason for even greater confidence when they go back to Chicago for Game 5 on Tuesday.
“It really boosted our confidence,” Pacers forward Tyler Hansbrough said. “Everyone feels like we can do this. We can pull games out in the fourth quarter and we can do what we need to do to win.”
Some of the Pacers’ confidence comes from their bench play. Their reserves have outscored Chicago’s 128-84 in the series, including a 30-17 advantage on Saturday. They’ve also forced Derrick Rose into 10-of-40 shooting over the past two games, and appear to have solved the rebounding issue – at least on their home court. The Bulls outrebounded the Pacers by 39 combined rebounds in the two games at the United Center, but by just one at the fieldhouse.
“Sometimes all it takes is one game to get a team over the hump,” said backup point guard A.J. Price, who scored 10 of Indiana’s bench points. “Hopefully this will be the game for us. In terms of schemes there was nothing different in our game plan. We just happened to be up a little more.
“This series could very easily be different. It could be 2-2, 3-1 us, anything you want to say. We’ve played them tough and I know if we finish games better we’ll have a chance to win games. That’s how we’re going to approach it.”